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Some memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times online

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feebly and without success, urged on Spain the cession of
Frankendahl, to which she also stood bound to him by treaty.
Thus baffled and insulted, and mortified in his most sensi-
tive point, the failure of that king-craft of which he made
his boast, he gradually became aware of the extent of
Buckingham's oversights, not only in his foreign policy, but in


tlie whole, also, of his fatal plan of administration at home. He
found the government become too weak to protect its own
honour, the nation embroiled in a quarrel, which from the outset,
though popular, was one of very doubtful promise, and which
he could now neither pursue with any hope of success, nor
retire from with any show of dignity ; and the Commons too
jealous to grant any supplies without a previous redress of

Such was the state to which the King was now, when
entering on the last year of his life, reduced. Embarrassed with
an enormous debt of his own creating, though discredited by
the surrender of the Dutch cautionary towns for money ;
embarrassed by the expenses of an increased navy, though dis-
credited by the indignities everywhere offered to its before
untarnished and triumphant flag ; and the Parliament and the
people crying out for war as the only means of avenging the
wronged reputation of their country. And yet Lord Clarendon
pronounces these to have been ' excellent times, sua si dona
' norint ; ' and Mr. Hume asserts that ( Mansfeldt's expedition
' was the only disaster which happened during this prosperous
' and pacific reign ;* a reign/ he continues, ' than which it
' would be difficult to find one in all history less illustrious, yet
' more unspotted and unblemished/ 1 Upon this reign,
besides the foul sacrifice of Raleigh, and the equally foul pardon
of the highest actors in the murder of Overbury, remain the
spot and blemish of a general dissolution of manners, a govern-
ment whose measures were notoriously bid for and purchased
by foreign gold, titles of honour publicly put to sale,
ministers of state convicted of peculation, and a Lord
Chancellor degraded for countenancing bribes in his court
and office.

The Parliament, which was convened February 12, 1623-4,
gratified with the Spanish quarrel, and with the prospects
which it opened, was of a more placable temper than those
which had preceded it ; and the Commons readily consented to
make good the first expenses of the war, although stipulating
for the abolition of all the most unpopular and burthensome
monopolies, and remonstrating against the favour shown to
Papists. It may be truly said to have been the most practi-
cally useful Parliament which met during this reigu. Its

* Hume's History of England, chap. slix. t Ibid.


proceedings against the Lord Treasurer Middlesex for gross
aild open bribery in the Treasury, and corruption in the Court
of Wards, and the conclusion to which that trial was brought,
were acts creditable to its industry and spirit; though it
cannot fail to be seen that these proceedings were encouraged
by Buckingham to increase his own influence, and not impro-
bably too, as Middlesex himself insinuates in his defence,
to punish him for standing in the way of some no less
corrupt practices of his own. How prophetic had been
Lord Bacon's warning to the Treasurer on his appointment, to
' remember ever that a Parliament will come ! '

After passing more acts than ever a Parliament before had
passed in one session, it came to a close on the 29th of May.
The King prorogued it in good-humour, looking, as he
expressed himself, to a meeting in the following year,
' which should make him greater and happier than any king
'ever was/

The influence of the Duke of Buckingham over the Royal
mind was now evidently on the decline, and charges were in
preparation by many hands for the ensuing session ; when, on
the 27th of March, 1625, James closed by death his inglorious
and oppressive reign.

The surmises concerning the manner of his death, vague as
they were, and imperfectly supported by facts or probability,
would be scarcely deserving of mention, had they not been
urged in the three next Parliaments, and had they not in
some sort influenced the measures which were, in consequence,
pursued by Charles. The charge of poisoning was, in those
times, a very ordinary way of accounting for so great a mystery
as the unexpected death of any sovereign or other great
person. That the death of James was caused by these means
soon became the creed of a party, and was supported by
heated and uncandid reasonings. Nor, on the other hand,
has it been more fairly dealt with by Lord Clarendon, who
describes it as being ' without the least colour or ground, as
' appeared upon the strictest and most malicious examination
' that could be made.' It was early matter of parliamentary
inquiry ; but this inquiry was in every way impeded by the
court. The story, indeed, vouched by Lilly, of the old
Countess of Buckingham's poisoned plaister, requires a faith
in the power of chemistry, as then understood, about as
reasonable as that which the same learned writer exacts in


behalf of dsemonology and the influence of the stars. Still
there were circumstances which tended to strengthen the
popular belief in the guilt of a favourite, whom some of
his opponents might, at the renewal of his career of great-
ness, have thought it easier to destroy than to appease.

All, however, that remains certain is this. After evidence
taken by a committee of the Commons, one of the articles
against Buckingham is, that he officiously administered to the
King certain drugs which had been prepared by the countess
in the absence of the physicians ; and the doing so was with
great propriety declared 'a transcendant presumption of a
dangerous consequence.' *

To this no answer was made, but a passionate protes-
tation of the duke's ; and, on three several occasions, the
Commons, declaring that they were 'ready to prove their
'charges against him, unless prevented/ were prevented by
a dissolution.




FROM 1625 TO 1628.

Accession of Charles the First His Character Appearance of a Reformation
in the Manners of the Court Renewal of arbitrary Measures Project of the
Popular Party for extending the Representation Right of Election restored
to several Boroughs Hampden elected for Wendover Two Subsidies granted
Votes of Censure and Enquiry Further Supplies refused Dissolution
Forced Loans Ships lent to France to serve against the Huguenots Failure
of the Expedition to Cadiz, and Blockade of Dunkirk Second Parliament
Buckingham impeached Elected Chancellor of the University of Cam-
bridge Seizure of Members Dissolution Hampden imprisoned Oppres-
sive Imposts Members released A new Parliament Petition of Right
Further attempts at Redress of Grievances Activity and industry of
Hampden Prorogation Merchants' Goods seized Failure of the Expedition
to Rochelle Death of Buckingham Failure of a second Expedition
Surrender of Rochelle.

KING CHARLES'S accession was hailed with all those tokens
of affection and joy which seldom fail to accompany such an
event, whatever may be the motives of hope in the prospect of
the opening reign, or the recollections of that which has
immediately preceded it.

Nor can this enthusiasm be always with justice referred to
an unreflecting or a servile feeling. For, though sometimes,
and to a certain extent, attributable to that sanguine love of
change which is no uncommon vice in popular bodies, it may
surely derive strength from another, and a far more reasonable,
desire in the people, to place the new King upon good terms
with themselves, by a spontaneous offer of good will and
confidence, on their part, to begin the account. On this
occasion many things seemed to justify favourable expectations.
There were doubtless in Charles eminent parts of disposition
and address, such as could not but secure the affections of
those whose office placed them near his person. If it be

To 1628.] HIS PA11TY AND HIS TIMES. 33

difficult to form a just estimate of his character, it is owing,
certainly, in some measure to the singularly-blended good and
bad qualities which composed it, but still more to the opposite
and raging passions of those writers, who, having lived through
his stormy time, could not, in becoming its historians, cease to
be partisans. Measured by the standard of either of the
conflicting principles, which, for two centuries, have distin-
guished in this country those persons who are specially lovers
of the monarchical, from those whose leaning is towards the
more popular, elements of the constitution, by the one
class he has been canonised as a martyr, and recommended
as a model and mirror for sovereigns; and by the other,
with as little truth, concluded to have been an unprincipled
and heartless tyrant, without a virtue, and without an

This was inevitable. But surely it would be weakness to be
deterred by any fear of the advantages which intemperate
persons may unfairly take of such admissions as truth and
justice demand, from corning to a candid acknowledgment of
the many high qualities, as of the one great vice and fatal
error, of this unhappy sovereign. His education had been of
a mixed and dangerous sort. From the days of his preceptor
Murray's rigid discipline, to those of the demoralising influence
of Yilliers, he had ever been in the hands of successive
factions ; each busy to mould to its own purposes a prince,
whose views of the intent and duties of his office do not
appear to have extended further than to the obligation of
maintaining, in full integrity for himself and his successors, a
power for the exercise of which he heartily believed that he
was answerable only to heaven. Favourably to Charles's
memory, his errors have been often entirely imputed to what
in themselves are virtues ; love for his wife, and tenacity of
purpose in matters of public duty. But the former seems
never to have influenced him in state-matters, further than by
exciting and confirming him in courses to which, independently
of her counsels, he was ever too much inclined ; nor the latter
to have placed him above occasional recourse to unworthy
compromises. The Queen's known aversion to Strafford did
not deter Charles from adopting him for an adviser ; nor a
sense of personal or private duty from surrendering him to the
scaffold. His fondness for the Queen did not prevent him
from making occasional concessions to a people whom she


disliked, and to whom she would have fain persuaded him to
concede nothing ; nor did his tenacity of purpose check him
from breaking engagements which every moral bond would
have made inviolable. Resolute in danger, and temperate in
his personal habits amidst the excesses of a luxurious nobility,
his chief infirmity was an obstinacy of temper which expostu-
lation could not persuade, noi experience correct, but which
generally, as obstinacy often does, made him the dupe of
some one favourite who knew how to practise adroitly upon it.
\\\< chid' vice was an insincerity, and distrust of his people,
in which he had been confirmed by the evil counsels of

When the Spanish match was broken off, the Duke had, in
a conference of the two Houses, made a long exposition, for
which, says Lord Clarendon, 'he had not the least directions
' from the King, and a great part of which he knew to be
' untrue/ ' But yet/ says Rushworth, ' the Prince not only
' gave the testimony of his silence to these untruths, but, on
'its being reported to the House the same day, approved
' thereof there also/ And this in a matter not only tending
to an untrue vindication of Buckingham, but also to an unjust
impeachment of Bristol, and a general deception upon the
country. The accusation of hardness of heart, urged against
him by Lilly and Whitelocke, and grounded upon an allegation
of his having remained an unmoved spectator of the sufferings
of Prince Rupert's prisoners brought from Cirencester, ' many
'wounded, bound with cords, and in great misery/ on which
occasion, according to the former of these writers, ' it was
' noted of some there present he rejoiced in their sad affliction /
is a charge single of its kind, and hinging upon minute and
doubtful interpretations of his comportment on an occasion
where, obviously, it was most liable to misrepresentation.
There appears to be no other instance to countenance the
notion that wanton cruelty ever stained a character strongly
marked as his was by warm and tender feelings in private
life. These in Charles are qualities so generally acknowledged
as to lead at once to what appears to be the fair conclusion
that whenever he departed, as it must be admitted he often
did, from the plainest laws of moderation and public honesty
(sometimes even entering upon negotiations, as may be shown,
with a previous purpose to deceive), it was owing to the
mastery which the superstition of Divine Right had obtained


over a judgment which, if not the most vigorous, was at least
not swayed, like his father's, by any base or vulgar passions.
Without any great depth of learning or research, his attain-
ments as a scholar were above the ordinary rate, and he was
well stored with general information. He was gifted with
eloquence and dignity, both in speaking and writing. We
are told that he took great pains in amending with his own
hand the wording of such state-papers as his ministers
laid before him for approbation, many of which, drawn up
by the masterly pens of Falkland and of Hyde, received
the corrections of his accurate taste, and the infusions
of his flowing style. Accomplished as well in bodily graces
and exercises as in those of his mind, and with a spirit strongly
imbued with something chivalrous and heroic, he appears to
have possessed every requisite of a perfect gentleman, except
the most important, Truth, and Good Faith. And he failed
in these, because he had persuaded himself that they are not
among the public duties of a Sovereign whose prerogative is
in dispute.

As Charles's temperance formed a favourable contrast with
the shameful vices of his predecessor, it was regarded as a
presage of better times. A rapid change was wrought in the
manners of the courtiers. Arts, and the more liberal sort of
Literature, were protected and advanced. And, although
Lord Suuderland, a few years after, in a well-known letter to
his wife, gives a somewhat astounding description of the topics
which were still allowed to prevail in the presence-chamber,
Mrs. Hutchinson (no indulgent judge of kings and courts)
bears her testimony to the discountenance which, for a time,
was given to licentiousness within the precincts of the royal
palace. But Charles and his people began by mistaking each
other. The people, long used to see arbitrary sovereignty in
a shape which could inspire only mockery and disgust,
expected, from the grave and imposing demeanour of their
new King, a disposition to respect the rights of the Commons,
and support them. Charles on his part hoped, from the
general piety of the people, that they would be easily led to
recognise and revere an extent of authority, for which he
thought that he found unquestionable warranty in the Word
of God ; ' since/ as his father early stated it, ' Kings are in
' the Word of God itself called Gods, as being His lieutenants
' and vicegerents on earth, and so adorned and furnished with

D 2


' some sparkles of the Divinity/* The people knew not the
despotic temper of their King, and the King knew not the
mounting spirit of his people ; and each was soon resolved to
put to trial a power of which neither had ascertained the exact
and due limits.

Pretensions-, the most unpromising to liberty and to general
concord, had already shown themselves ; and, at the coronation,
an attempt was made by Laud, then Bishop of Bath and \Yells,
officiating as Dean of Westminster, to alter the form of
engagement pronounced by the King. Endeavours were made
to reconcile the country to the omission of a phrase, ' quas
'vulgus elegerit (leges)/ 1 acknowledging the legislative
power of Parliaments, and to the insertion of another which
hinted at a dispensing power in the Crown, ' salvo prerogativo
'regali/J During the issuing of the writs for the first
Parliament, money was raised through a compulsory purchase
of knighthoods ; and a levy of three thousand soldiers was
ordered by royal warrant and proclamation. Coat and
conduct-money was at the same time required from the
counties ; and martial law was enforced among the new troops,
who thus were separated from the body of the people, and
taken from under the control of the common law of the
realm. Certain prelates, and other clergymen, were advanced
into favour and promoted, who had been censured by former
Parliaments for preaching in favour of the late King's arbitrary
measures, and for maintaining that his will had the force and
virtue of law. The obnoxious favourite was retained in the
chief administration of affairs ; and, in defiance of the wishes
of the nation, the King concluded a marriage with a Princess
bred up in the persecuting doctrines of the French court, and,
as was soon believed, too little scrupulous in all matters of
conduct, except those wliich related to the rites of a religion
to which she was bigoted and the English people deeply and
passionately opposed. The impolicy of this match was
aggravated by this circumstance that every indulgence in her
religious observances, so justly the right of all, but so peculiarly
due to the wife and daughter of a King, was in direct breach

}of the law. According to the secret article in the marriage-
treaty, to which, in order to obtain the Pope's dispensation

* James L's speech on opening his Parliament, 1604. Parliamentary

t Rush worth. Rapin.


for Henrietta, Charles had bound himself by oath, it was
stipulated that her household should be composed entirely of
Roman Catholics. Such of these as were French, it was
provided, should be irremovable ; and such as were English,
were, contrary to law, to be protected in the ostentatious
profession and exercise of their faith.* A singular instance
of an article in which one state bargained for the suspension
of statutes affecting the condition of the subjects of another.
Several of these persons were raised to offices of high authority
and trust ; and, at great charge, and with still greater public
scandal, a splendid chapel was fitted up at Somerset House.
Then, for the first time since the reign of Mary, an English
Queen was seen passing in pomp through the streets of
London to the abomination, as it was termed, of the mass.
Thus, proscribed equally by public opinion and by the law,
but advanced and favoured at Court in opposition to both, it
is not to be wondered at that the Roman Catholics of England
openly boasted that their religion was, through the influence
of the Queen, to be re-established ; or that Bossuet should
have recorded that intention, and the view which was taken of
its final success, amongst the topics of his immortal panegyric
pronounced upon her memory.t

As for the politics of the Roman Catholics, it was natural
that they should be undividedly for absolute monarchy. They
had nothing but oppression to expect from Parliament or
people. Their only hope was from the Court ; and the only
chance for that Court becoming strong enough to befriend
their cause, consisted in its power being rendered absolute.
Charles began, on his part, openly to countenance the revival
of the terms ' courtier ' and ' precisian/ as signifying the being
in his favour or opposed to his government.

By such unwise and unwarrantable affronts to public
feeling, the favourable expectations at first so eagerly indulged
were gradually dispelled. The people were dismayed. Their
affections, so willingly and warmly tendered to the young
King, were chilled ; and, even before his first Parliament was
opened, they saw, with mortification and disgust, the system of
his subsequent government revealed. His foreign policy,
however, at the outset promised better. He began his reign
by entirely occupying the public attention with the cause of the

* Bassompierre. Rushworth. f Oraison Funebre.


Elector Palatine, to which the country had been always so well
affected ; thereby involving the Parliament in engagements of
supply upon a large scale, which he might have calculated
upon its afterwards finding some difficulty in reducing.
Although it is unquestionable that war is the position in which
a nation is the most easily familiarised with arbitrary
measures and a suspension of its free customs and privileges,
it is, notwithstanding, no less true that war affords to the
people increased means of obtaining terms for public
liberty by making their own conditions of supply. It appears
as if the English Court, well aware of the first of these
obvious truths, had been altogether inattentive to the second ;
until taught by an experience which came too late to warn
the obstinacy of Charles, or control the violence of his

In the first Parliament of this reign, which met in June,
162o7Hampden again took his seat. He was now elected for
the borough of Wendover, a town in the neighbourhood of his
paternal estates, which had, just before, recovered from the
Crown its custom of returning members. This privilege had
lately been restored to certain boroughs, which in early times
h:id claimed and exercised it, but to which, for several reigns,
writs had ceased to be directed. The immediate motives of
/those persons, by whose efforts a series of measures of this sort
was undertaken for extending a share of the representation to
such classes of the people as might be the least likely to fall
under the influence of the Court, and the most disposed to
favour the interest and strengthen the hands of the country
party, the manner in which these measures were accom-
plished, and the success which followed them, form an
(interesting part of the history of those times, and of the party
with which Hampden had connected himself. If not the
projector of this scheme for the furtherance of the public
cause, in Parliament, he was one of the first, by his sagacity to
become aware of its importance, and, by his industry and
address, to bring it to a successful issue. And this was the
earliest of those measures which he had the power (according
to Lord Clarendon's words) to ( contrive/ to c persuade/ and to
' execute/ in the great struggle for liberty. It was his fortune
also to adorn this triumph in his own person, as representative
of one of the places for which he had obtained the restoration of
the privilege of popular election ; thus fulfilling, in all its


parts, a metaphor quaintly applied by an old English writer
to an achievement, in its consequences, much less
important : ' Primus inter eos qui communi prselio in
'libertatem spiraverint, hoc, quasi presidium libertatis,
'sopitum excitavit, excitatum reparavit, reparatum decoravit/*
We have already seen how, under the reign of James, the
Court had become aware that, through a necessity imposed by
the course of events, the epoch of simple, undisguised despotism
was drawing near to its end in England ; and that, thence-
forward, the Sovereign could hope to be absolute only by
influencing the elections and managing the Parliament. We
have seen that expedients for influencing elections had been
attempted by King James, through the instrumentality of
persons then known by the name of Undertakers, who, having
possessed themselves of means of local influence, offered their
services to the Court to procure favourable returns. It being
plain, then, that the House of Commons was the contested
ground on which Liberty or Absolute Prerogative was
ultimately to prevail, the first step for the friends of freedom
(necessarily the first in order, and manifestly the first in
importance), was to gain a hold, stronger than that which the
Court possessed, over so powerful an engine. And this could
only be done by securing an additional infusion of popular
representation. But the object of such a measure was likely to
be so soon detected by some of those persons who had lately
attached themselves to the Court, that it was essential to its

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 10 of 45)